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Milestone Birthdays in February

Tommy Smothers, Laura Dern and LeVar Burton open birthday gifts

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    February 1

    Don Everly, 80: The older half of the Everly Brothers rose to fame in the 1950s alongside Phil (who died at 74 in 2014) with such hits as “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie.” In 1986, the pair was one of the first 10 acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Heavenly harmonizers on stage, they were often battling brothers off it, but “I think about him every day,” said Don of Phil after the latter’s death. “I always thought about him every day, even when we were not speaking to each other.”  

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  • Reed Saxon/AP

    February 2

    Tommy Smothers, 80: “Mom always liked you best!” Whatever truth there was to that punch line, made famous by this senior member of the folk-singing Smothers Brothers, America clearly liked them best: Tommy and Dick hosted The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour from 1967 to 1969, when CBS spiked the variety show for its pointed political commentary

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    February 4

    Dan Quayle, 70: You spell it “potato,” he spelled it “potatoe.” But it was too late to call the whole thing off: The 44th vice president’s gaffe while observing a spelling bee at a New Jersey elementary school in 1992 was caught on camera, and he was mercilessly ridiculed for it. After serving under President George H. W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, the Indiana native mounted a five-month run at the Republican presidential nomination in 1999. He has not sought office since. The ex-veep did, however, pay a congratulatory visit to President Donald Trump before his inauguration last month. 

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  • Michael Kovac/Getty Images

    February 10

    Laura Dern, 50: The actress was all of 6 years old when she debuted in a cameo opposite her mother, Diane Ladd, in 1973’s White Lightning. (Laura’s father is actor Bruce Dern.) Six additional films would feature the mother-daughter pair; among them was Rambling Rose (1991), which brought Dern an Oscar nomination for best actress. (Another nomination came her way for playing the doomed Bobbi in 2014’s Wild.) This year Dern will portray a murderous mother in HBO’s Big Little Lies; look for her as well in an episode of Showtime’s rebooted Twin Peaks, and in the December blockbuster Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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    February 10

    Leontyne Price, 90: “A Price beyond pearls” is just one of the honorifics bestowed on this Mississippi-born superstar soprano, among the first African Americans to become a lead artist at the Metropolitan Opera (which she joined in 1961). Deemed a national treasure, Price has been called upon to perform at such epochal ceremonies as LBJ’s inauguration (1965) and his state funeral eight years later. Among her many honors are 13 Grammys and a Lifetime Achievement Award, conferred in 1989.

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    February 16

    LeVar Burton, 60: Most actors consider themselves lucky to land a single, career-defining role; Burton has been blessed with three. After making his acting debut as the rebellious Kunta Kinte in the landmark 1977 miniseries Roots, Burton turned countless kids into ardent book lovers as the host of PBS’ Reading Rainbow for 21 seasons, beginning in 1983. In 1987 he joined the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation as sight-impaired Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge; audiences embraced the character, and Burton played him for seven TV seasons and in four feature films. 

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    February 18

    Vanna White, 60: One of the reasons the syndicated game show Wheel of Fortune keeps on spinning season after season is host Pat Sajak’s fashionable letter-turning assistant, Vanna White. She won a full-time spot on the game show in 1982 after appearing as a contestant on The Price Is Right. From a Playboy lingerie pictorial to cameos on TV series like L.A. Law, White has become a pop icon, with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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    February 19

    Benicio del Toro, 50: This Puerto Rican-born sex symbol has come a long way since his 1988 film debut as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy in Pee-Wee’s Big Top. After breaking out as a mumbling crook in 1995’s The Usual Suspects, del Toro won a supporting Oscar as a drug-enforcement cop on the Mexican border in 2000’s Traffic. More recently, he was briefly seen as Marvel comic-book character The Collector in both 2013’s Thor: The Dark World and 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Next up: this year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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    February 20

    Sidney Poitier, 90: With his role as a church-building handyman in 1963’s Lilies of the Field, the barrier-smashing Bahamian-American actor — one of the most popular movie stars of the 1960s — became the first black lead actor to win an Oscar. Poitier, who once said he chose work that reflected his values, went on to headline such socially aware hits as To Sir, with Love; In the Heat of the Night; and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. He also achieved success as a director with Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Stir Crazy (1980).

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    February 24

    Rupert Holmes, 70: If you like piña coladas (and getting caught in the rain), you might want to toast British-American singer-songwriter Holmes: His No. 1 hit, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” was inescapable in 1979. The onetime studio musician had previously collaborated with Barbra Streisand on songs for her 1976 film, A Star Is Born; he worked with Streisand on six of her albums, as well. The multitalented Holmes also nabbed a pair of Tony awards for the book and score of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a 1985 musical inspired by Charles Dickens.

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    February 24

    Edward James Olmos, 70: After winning an Emmy as tight-lipped Lt. Marty Castillo on 1980s hit Miami Vice, Olmos used his clout to star as real-life L.A. math teacher Jaime Escalante in 1988’s Stand and Deliver. The role brought Olmos the distinction of being the first American-born Hispanic lead actor nominated for an Oscar. In a long and varied career since then, he directed and starred in American Me (1992), played Admiral Adama on 73 episodes of Battlestar Galactica (2003-09) and headed a rival force on the second season of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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    February 28

    John Turturro, 60: This colorful Italian-American actor is a favorite of both the Coen Brothers (four films, including as hot-headed bowler Jesus in 1998’s The Big Lebowski) and Spike Lee (nine films, most notably as a testy pizza slinger in 1989’s Do the Right Thing). But Turturro is not above mainstream fare; witness his association with the Transformers franchise, including this summer’s The Last Knight. His finest role to date? The underdog lawyer on last year’s HBO crime series The Night Of.

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